Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
Tuesday, 8:47 a.m.: A few minutes ago my wife called to me, noting a strange bird on our deck. It was sitting on the back of a chair. Then it fluttered against the patio-door glass, perhaps wishing to come indoors. It displaced a chickadee at a feeder filled with sunflower chips. Then back to the door. It was a Cape May Warbler, for us new for the season and the yard. It said goodbye after somehow clinging to the glass, sort of like a tree frog, maybe begging to get out of the wind. The wind took it then, and it was gone. Strange. It must be the weather, this weird and terrible weather. The photo is of a Cape May acting in normal fashion.
As a summary to the extraordinary Snowy Owl winter we enjoyed, here's an eBird © map of owl location and movement between January and March. The map was created by the crew at ProjectSNOWstorm, the owl-tracking effort that included the Minnesota owl known as Ramsey.
The map includes so many data points that the mapping software converted all individual points to colored blocks, the more intense the color, the more sightings in that area. Minneapolis is at the extreme left edge of the map.
There were a lot of owls.
"Ramsey, our Minnesota-tagged owl who spent the winter just outside the Twin Cities, definitely hears the call of the north. After missing a check-in on April 23, his transmitter phoned home on Saturday night -- from Saskatchewan!
"In the previous six days he'd left Ramsey County, N.D., flown across the southwestern corner of Manitoba the night of April 22-23 -- hitting speeds of almost 50 knots (55 mph/89 kph) along the way -- and stopped for the day in Division No. 16, the county-level equivalent in Manitoba.
"That's flat and empty prairie country, lots of grain farming and not a lot of people. The nearby town of Binscarth is noted for "the largest outdoor swimming pool on the Yellowhead Highway," I have learned, but I doubt that's why Ramsey stopped.
"The map below shows Ramsey's position and GSM cell coverage in Saskatchewan.
"We got lucky. One thing that part of Manitoba doesn't have is much cell coverage, though. When last Wednesday night came and his transmitter tried to call, it apparently got no signal, and so kept storing up data.
"By Saturday, though, Ramsey was sitting on the ice of Silver Lake, near the hamlet of Tufnell, Saskatchewan (population 10) -- and fortunately for us, he was just north of the Yellowhead Highway, along which runs a line of GSM cell towers.
"In all, he'd flown 337 miles (542 km) in the previous six days -- but depending on his route, this may be the last time we hear from him this spring, because those cell towers along the highway are about it.
"North of there, the only cell towers belong to Sasktel's network, and from what I've been able to tell they don't use GSM, which is the cellular system our transmitters use. Here's a map that shows the GSM coverage in the province, overlayed on Ramsey's position Saturday night -- as you can see, north of him there's nothing much, all the way to the Arctic. Unless he flies even farther west into Alberta, where GSM cell coverage is far more extensive and extends much farther north, this may be our last contact with Ramsey for this season."
On the map, Ramsey crosses into Canada from North Dakota as shown by the blue markers in the lower right corner.
The Garganey that had been seen at Crex Meadows near Grantsburg, Wisconsin, the past few days went unseen Monday morning. Numerous observers looked from 5:30 until noon with no success.
The Garganey, a very rare duck visitor from Eurasia, was in place at Crex Meadows Wildllife Area as of Sunday afternoon. Crex is just north of Grantsburg, Wisconsin. The bird is being seen in a pond on the northeast corner of Burnett County Road F and Able Road. This is about a mile north of County Road D, which runs east and west at the northern edge of the city. County F runs due north from downtown Grantsburg. The Cinnamon Teal, regular in Minnesota but not easy to find, was being seen in a field puddle about half a mile east of Stewart, Minnesota. The puddle is along 75th Avenue, which is parallel to Highway 212 on its north side.
Garganey with Blue-winged Teal.
The Garganey is the lead bird, flying with Blue-Winged Teal.
The Cinnamon Teal is second bird from the right.
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